Sage Francis: Life Is Easy 1968-2005
Label: Epitaph/Strange Famous Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
I'd like to preface this review by saying I had the opportunity to see Sage Francis perform live at the Sokol Underground in Omaha, NE. Besides being one hell of a performance where a great time was had by all, I had the bonus pleasure of being able to pick up this DVD for a cheap price directly from his merchandise table. If after reading the review you want to get a copy yourself, don't bother with your local Best Buy or Tower Records, because odds are that they won't have it. If you don't want to wait until he comes in concert to your town, I recommend ordering it directly from the Strange Famous website hyperlinked above.
The "Life Is Easy 1968-2005" DVD is shot in a loosely narrative style, without any actual narration. Instead Sage and his occasional cohorts are the ones explaining the story that's told here, which doesn't actually have much continuity to itself as a story whatsoever. That's not a bad thing per se, as often stories that start at point A and end at point B can be pretty boring. Quentin Tarantino proved to film audiences with "Pulp Fiction" that sometimes the best movie can start and end at the same place, while the underground classic "Memento" proved to us that a great narrative can actually take place starting at the end and going BACKWARDS.
Taken in that context the somewhat disruptive format of "Life Is Easy" is actually highly successful. Several music videos are included throughout, including the "Escape Artist" piece that got him some limited crossover exposure on channels like MTV and Much Music. Sage himself seems to be walking a constant tightrope between underground credibility and mainstream recognition, beloved by the frenzied audiences who throw him around in a mosh pit while rapping live but likely to be turned on by those very same people as a sellout. Sage has found his own way to deal with the dichotomy by promoting a website he funds called knowmore.org, a watchdog which keeps an eye on the shady business practice of large corporations, which like Wikipedia anybody can edit and contribute to. The fact there are a litany of Sage Francis CD's and this DVD itself proves that Sage isn't necessarily opposed to money, just the evil ways that it's sometimes used.
Sage Francis is a hard guy to pin down, and it's not just because of the editing style of this DVD. You're never quite sure when he's fucking with you or when he's serious, and you're always left guessing. He'll go from discussing a dream where his mother revealed that she loves him as her son but hates who he's become to waxing philosophically on "meta-dick" and declaring that he's not really opposed to homosexuality, just not personally interested in it much. Whether you can take any of it seriously or not doesn't matter in the end, because Sage is just one fucking entertaining guy period. Having seen him perform his own version of Pharoahe Monch's "Get the Fuck Up" live I can attest to that; the only difference between the version I saw and the one on this DVD is that he wasn't waving a (hopefully) fake gun at the crowd as he performed the freestyle.
There's lots of different footage to be found on this DVD, including on stage performances that travel all the way from California to Europe. We're also treated to rarely seen videos like the "Sea Lion Remix," which merges Sage's hip-hop sensibility with a video style like that of Tool or Nine Inch Nails. The "Escape Artist" video is particularly good, as it's like a four minute movie unto itself with a dramatic chase sequence and violent conclusion. They are just small parts of the larger picture here, which is at times seemingly random and at times seemingly organized. This might put off people who are not Sage Francis fans or who have never heard of him before, but actually I recommend it to that audience the most. Francis is such a charismatic and engaging personality that even if you didn't like hip-hop you would probably be fascinated and intrigued by this DVD, and if you are a fan of his you're going to like it that much more.
The menus are a bit confusing at first with their "cut and paste" style, but are actually quite easy to use once you get used to it and readily chapter to favorite parts you'll want to watch again. "Life Is Easy 1968-2005" may not be the easiest hip-hop DVD to find, but it will be one of the best that you can own as it easily lends itself to repeat viewings. Sage Francis never makes it easy, but he does make it entertaining, so here's hoping he sells a lot of copies.
Content: 8.5 of 10
Layout: 7.5 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: March 28, 2006